Rosabeth Moss Kanter shows her privacy systems savvy in her new post Don't Read This, It's Private to HarvardBusiness.org's Voices section. (Thanks to Heledd Straker of Naked Generations for tweeting the link.) Prof. Kanter documents the reality of life and work in the Internet age: Many people know what you are doing and where you are. These are important issues for business and personal settings. In business we must manage privacy as regulated by law (e.g., HIPAA, FERPA). More personally, the issues of Internet privacy are becoming almost as important as the birds and the bees for many of my friend's sit-down discussions with their kids. Prof. Kanter notes:
Has the culture already changed so much that people don't care about privacy any more? Has being on public display all the time made exhibitionism (teenage style) and self-directed exposure of personal information (social network website style) preferable to privacy? I don't think so, and I think personal privacy could become not just a problem but a business opportunity - a technology frontier. Clever innovators will find new ways to block access or screen contacts or make people invisible. Now that our pictures can be snapped by cell phones, someone will invent a way to beam the light back on that phone if you don't want to be in a photo. Suddenly privacy could become as cool to the kids as lack of it is now. They will retreat behind their electronic invisibility shields to get out of fights or shun a blind date. They will use their pinkie ring scramblers to erase digital records of embarrassing photos on Facebook that they don't want college admissions officers to see. And then they will understand why privacy is something to cherish and protect, even if everyone can know everything about anyone in the digital age.
In the U.S., we have a Federal holiday this Monday. How many of you are automatically updating your "friends" with your whereabouts? I'm looking for sailboat crew for Monday and could benefit from knowing who's in town before sending an email. If I just broadcast asking for crew, I end up taking my friends' time by their feeling obligated to tell me they are out of town, or apologizing for not replying promptly because they were out of town. Easier if I just contacted the subset of folks actually in the area. But I don't broadcast my whereabouts, so I can't really expect my friends to broadcast theirs. I do use Loopt when I'm on the road, but only connected to two family members. I also use TripIt, though again, just with family members. The number of travel related social tools like TripIt is growing. Rod of DigitalNomads provides a clear description of the value of TripIt and Dopplr for business and networking purposes. He focuses on the ideas of knowing who's in what city. Yesterday, Nick Wingfield gave us Sharing Where You Are When You Care to Share. His focus was on more micro location awareness and privacy as he reviewed another tool: Glympse.
There's a tendency in the Twitter era for people to share copious details of their lives with online pals. One way to do that is through new mobile-phone services that let people share their physical locations using the tracking technology inside modern cellphones. While these location-sharing services have some interesting possibilities, they also raise some disturbing implications for privacy -- or maybe it just seems that way if, like me, you're over 35 years old. Lately I've been testing a cellphone location-sharing service [Glymspe] that I found simple, useful and non-creepy enough that I can imagine people thirtysomething and older using it.
Nick's perspective seems similar to Michael Calore's Epicenter post Gmail's New 'Add Location' Feature Is Too Honest. We need more and more expertise to maintain control of how our information is shared. The good news for now is that Prof. Kanter is right, at least I still have a door to close and the need for privacy management should ultimately be addressed by the market. But if that's the case, where do I get that pinkie ring scrambler she mentions? ------- For more on location sharing, please also see Lew McCreary's What was Privacy (cited in Prof. Kanter's post) and my prior posts (under the Location category). I continue in my quest to find peer-reviewed research on location awareness/privacy and modern technology. While "computer monitoring" was a hot topic in the 80s and early 90s, we seem to have given up our concern -- at least as far as peer-reviewed research has yet to show (maybe these papers are in the publication pipeline and will break free soon).